ING Renault F1 Team driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., reflects on the start of his Formula One career and talks about his life away from the track. The youngster has three Grands Prix on his tally, but has already made huge improvements.
Nelson, you have stepped up to become a race driver from test driver and have now done three races. How are you finding things so far? "Racing in Formula 1 is what every driver dreams of. It was good to be a test driver last year, especially as I was able to get to know the team quite well and settle into a new environment, but as a racing driver I was born to race; this is what I was made for and so I am very happy to have this chance to race in Formula 1. The first three races have been interesting and I have learnt a great deal. I think we just need a bit more luck in the coming races and hopefully we can begin fighting for the points."
How has your life changed since becoming an F1 driver? "There has not really been a massive change because I spent last year testing for the team and I have been around racing my whole life because my father was a racing driver. Also, I have been racing in Formula 3 and GP2 and so it is not as if I appeared from nowhere. For sure there are changes and my life has become a lot busier, but there was no big change."
Are there any areas where you feel you need to improve? "I need to improve everywhere because I have only done three races in F1. It takes time to get fully comfortable with the car, and you can only do this by spending more time in the car. Already after three races I have made a big improvement and I feel more confident with the way I work and the feedback I can give the team. With time everything just gets easier and I expect this to be the case as the season unfolds."
Tell us how you prepare for a Grand Prix weekend? "The week before a race is relatively quiet as there is no testing. I usually do some training because when you are not driving the car you need to replace it with something. But I try to vary my training routine as it can get boring if you simply train in the gym everyday, and so I go running outside or if I am near a beach I will do some water sports."
How physically demanding is driving an F1 car and how do you feel after a Grand Prix? "It is something you have to get used to and then it begins to feel natural. Obviously in the beginning you do not feel 100% comfortable after the race, but if you have trained properly then you quickly get used to it. It's the same for a football player after a match because this is what he has trained for and so he feels comfortable playing for 90 minutes. But if you take a football player or a swimmer, who are usually much fitter than racing drivers and ask them to drive an F1 car, they will be exhausted after just a couple of laps because they are not used to it. For an F1 driver this is a normal environment and we have conditioned our bodies to be able to cope with the demands of driving."
You travel a lot and visit some amazing locations. Which races are you most looking forward to? "Australia is usually fun and this year I was able to spend some time in Melbourne. But to be honest I spend most of my time at the track, rather than sightseeing, and so it is the circuits that I enjoy visiting. In terms of the races I am looking forward to the most, I would say this will be Silverstone and Spa, which are probably my two favorite circuits because they are high-speed and have an exciting, flowing layout. Obviously Monaco is another favorite as there is such a special atmosphere there and I cannot wait to experience it as a race driver."
So after a Grand Prix weekend what do you do away from the track to relax? "There is not that much time away from the track as we are racing and testing for around 90% of the year. But when I do get home, whether it is in England or Brazil, I like to relax at my house, hang out with friends and maybe do some shopping." Source Renault
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